The Unicorn

Numbers 23:22

“God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”

Rhinoceros unicornis

“You obviously can’t believe the Bible because it talks about unicorns. Unicorns are obviously mythical beasts – white horses, with a curly horn on its forehead, looking like a cross between a horse and a narwhal.”

Is this accusation fair? There are some of you at this moment using your electronic concordances, telling me that the word unicorn does not appear in your Bible.

Well, the word unicorn appears six times in the King James Version. But the animal described does not sound like the delicate white horse of mythology. For example, in Numbers 23:11, it tells us that God “hath… the strength of an unicorn”. Since when was a fairy-tale unicorn a symbol of strength?

Unicorn is a Latin word, indicating one horn. The Hebrew word is reym, which can mean a wild ox, but can equally mean any large powerful grazing animal. The ESV translates it as wild ox, but I do not agree with this because the Greek found in the Septuagint is monokerotos, which also means single horn. So, is there any animal with a single horn that could be as strong as, or even stronger than, an ox?

The Indian Rhinoceros has only one horn. Indeed, its Latin name is Rhinoceros unicornis. It is highly possible that the reym or unicorn of the Bible could have been either this or some other extinct rhino. Whatever it was, the biblical descriptions suggest a real, powerful beast, not a Victorian fairy-tale.